Review of Everything Naomi Loved

Everything Naomi Loved
by Katie Yamasaki and Ian ­Lendler; illus. by Katie Yamasaki
Primary    Norton    48 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-324-00491-2    $18.95
e-book ed.  978-1-324-00492-9    $17.48

Naomi lives on busy, bustling 11th Street — “It wasn’t pretty but it was alive!” — where she and her best friend Ada love to play. One day, they wake to discover a beloved tree on 11th Street has been cut down and that many buildings are slated for demolition, including the one where Ada lives — all to make way for “luxury living.” As a way to say goodbye, Mister Ray (whose car-repair shop is also to be shuttered) and Naomi begin to paint fond memories of their neighborhood on the exterior walls of the buildings. It becomes a sprawling mural, but soon that too is torn down, with Naomi keeping a piece of painted brick for posterity. This story is grounded in the details of the community Naomi loves, such as the corner bodega; “$1 wash!”; and the “never-ending hum of cars.” Yamasaki, herself a muralist, paints these details into vivid tableaux of a diverse community and its particularities, illustrations that invite close inspection. Visual hyperbole is used to emphasize Naomi’s emotions, such as the moment she hugs Ada goodbye and long streams of tears fall from her eyes, creating puddles at their feet. “Things change,” Lendler and Yamasaki remind readers more than once, but love and memories are what Naomi carries with her to a new home. This tender tale, about the effects of gentrification, is one many city-dwelling children will know well.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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